FROM THE PHOTOS in "Our Family: A Glimpse of Soviet Jewry," at the B'nai B'rith Klutznick Museum, it is the small things that remain in the mind:
The plaid socks on the old man who has removed his shoes to enter a hall of worship. The jury-rigged TV set -- and amid the wires, the man sitting alone on Rosh Hashanah night at a table set with pickles, bread, fruit and wine. A wheelbarrow full of live turkeys -- and the boy who breathlessly pushes it past a little girl who grins in delight.
These are scenes in Soviet Georgia, the Caucasus Mountains, the Baltic provinces, Leningrad, Moscow and Minsk. Far from the familiar shadowy images of Moscow streets and the Kremlin, these color photos are earthy, reverent and real.
The faces of Soviet Jews were snatched from obscurity by photographer Nodar Djindjihashvili during a secret journey he made with painter Albert Shvilly. (Three of Shvilly's paintings are on exhibit here.) Covering 20,000 miles in the two years after he applied for an exit visa in 1978, Djindjihashvili took 4,000 such photographs. For both men, Russian born, the photographic trek was a pilgrimage. Both have since come to live in the United States.
Their emigration was apparently effortless -- unlike that of the refuseniks, who are also represented here, in portraits in black and white by American photographer Bill Aron.
Aron started out photographing the remaining synagogues and their congregations in Minsk, Moscow and Leningrad in 1981. But he ended up photographing Jews who have been waiting year after year to emigrate to Israel. The images are sympathetic and beautiful, and the fact that his father emigrated from the Soviet Union years ago doesn't fully explain Aron's palpable empathy.
In this portrait gallery, many of the refuseniks are young -- a handsome driver in his 30s who first applied in 1976, a five-year-old Leningrad girl who is all hairbow and eyes. But there is also a no-longer-young cyberneticist who first applied to emigrate in 1971.
What the waiting life is like, pictures cannot tell.
OUR FAMILY: A GLIMPSE OF SOVIET JEWRY -- At the B'Nai B'Rith Klutznick Museum, 1640 Rhode Island Avenue NW. Open 10 to 5. Closed Saturdays and Jewish holidays.